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Alert! The programme for this year’s @OpenBookFest has been revealed! Click here to see it:

Hard-earned Swagger and Confidence at the Launch of Jaco van Schalkwyk's The Alibi Club

The Alibi ClubDie Alibi KlubWhen Jaco van Schalkwyk and Melt Myburgh first met, they were both at the University of Stellenbosch in a creative writing class under the mentorship of Marlene van Niekerk and Willem Anker. “It was the complete and coherent and total destruction of anything I’ve ever made,” Van Schalkwyk said.

Myburgh remembered the state Van Schalkwyk was in after that first class, after Van Niekerk told him he was writing in the wrong language – Afrikaans. That evening as Van Schalkwyk drove from Stellenbosch to Cape Town he hit a deer. “Were I a year younger I would have committed suicide,” he said.

Years later Van Schalkwyk would write Die Alibi Klub, first in Afrikaans, then tackling the daunting challenge of translating his prose into English as The Alibi Club.

Van Schalkwyk and Myburgh were in conversation at the launch of The Alibi Club at David Krut Bookshop.

Van Schalkwyk insists that first creative writing class was a pivotal moment in his life. After hitting the deer he went home and, down in the dumps, remembered what he had learned in primary school: “Bennie skop die bal. Die bal is rond.” (Bennie kicks the ball. The ball is round.) He realised then that he should treat language as a logical, coherent thing. That is why, he said, you’ll find no floral descriptions in his book.

And publishing The Alibi Club has been another turning point for Van Schalkwyk.

Myburgh asked the debut novelist about writing American Afrikaans, or as he called it, “Afrikaans met ’n drôl” (Afrikaans with a drawl).

Van Schalkwyk said he always admired the great Americans authors like Ernest Hemingway, whose prose held “real swagger”. Van Schalkwyk appreciates the highly confident, never questioning, and completely vulnerable aspects of American prose. Closer to home, Van Schalkwyk said he drew inspiration from Herman Charles Bosman and Eugène Marais for the way they could “put a knife into a story”. Van Schalkwyk said Bosman and Marais have taught him to be brave and to respect the reader enough to “challenge and completely destroy them”.

“Confidence is the thing,” Van Schalkwyk said . “What I found in that course is confidence, what I found in America is confidence.”

The Alibi Club is set in New York at a dive bar called The Alibi between 1998 and 2007. Van Schalkwyk said he decided to keep the characters’ real names, because his grandmother taught him “jy noem ’n ding op sy naam” (you call a spade a spade). Van Schalkwyk decided during the writing process to avoid being a silent witness or a “fly on the wall”. Instead, he wanted to be a responsible participant in the creation of the text and the story as it unfolded.

The Alibi Club is fiction, said Van Schalkwyk, but he hoped that keeping the characters’ real names would somehow transcend that fiction to create a codex for specific people in a specific neighbourhood at a very difficult time in the world’s history books. “I wanted to be quite honest in my approach to fiction. I question fiction and I used to read mostly non-fiction,” he said.

“I’m used to artmaking in that I don’t understand what I’m doing until the work reflects the possibilities of what I could be doing.” Van Schalkwyk said he wanted to make fiction, to find a test for fiction in order to answer the questions: “When is fiction valid and how does it function?”

Myburgh asked Van Schalkwyk how his background as a visual artist influenced his writing.

Van Schalkwyk answered the question by making reference to to Niggie by Ingrid Winterbach, who also began her career as a visual artist. “If you’re writing about something you must be able to describe the scene,” he said. He called this the “architecture of the scene” – to describe the geography of the space, but also to change that space into action. “In the writing process you’re not just depicting, but also activating,” he said.

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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:


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Don't Miss the Launch of Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen by Melinda Ferguson and Patricia Taylor

Oscar invite non-disclosed

Oscar: An Accident Waiting to HappenJacana Media and Exclusive Books Rosebank would like to invite you to the launch of Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen by Melinda Ferguson and Patricia Taylor.

Ferguson and Taylor, in conversation with Joanne Joseph, will discuss Oscar Pistorius and his relationship with Taylor’s daughter, Samantha.

The launch will be at Exclusive Books, Rosebank Mall on Thursday, 18 September, at 5:30 for 6 PM.

Don’t miss it!

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Pan Macmillan Authors at Open Book Festival 2014 (17–21 September)

The 2014 Open Book Festival is being held in Cape Town from Wednesday 17 to Sunday 21 September. Pan Macmillan authors to look out for at the festival include Mandla Langa, Ekow Duker and Songezo Zibi. There will also be a session honouring the late Nadine Gordimer.

The Texture of ShadowsWhite WahalaDying in New YorkRaising the BarNo Time Like the Present


Thursday 18 September

Tribute to Nadine Gordimer
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: Free
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Imraan Coovadia, Billy Kahora and Margie Orford read from Nadine Gordimer’s work and share stories about her influence on their creative lives. Curated by Karina M Szczurek.

Pen Dialogue 2: Mandla Langa
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Mandla Langa discusses his new novel, Texture of Shadows, with Margie Orford.

Rape Crisis Presents: Duker and Mbalo
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 6 PM to 7 PM
Ekow Duker (Dying in New York) and Sixolile Mbalo (Dear Bullet) speak to Sindiwe Magona.

Friday 19 September

Off the Page
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 4 PM to 5 PM
Karina Szczurek asks Andrew Brown, Ekow Duker and Jonny Steinberg about the impact that the content of their books has on them.

Saturday 20 September

Ekow Duker and Zakes Mda
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 10 AM to 11 AM
Zethu Matebeni talks to a literary newbie and an icon of SA lit about their new novels.

State of the Media
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Time: 12 PM to 1 PM
Price: R40
Charles King gets the lowdown from Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Antony Loewenstein, Eusebius McKaiser and Songezo Zibi.

Sunday 21 September

Diaspora and Back
Venue: Fugard Theatre
Price: R40
Time: 12 PM to 1 PM
Sefi Atta, Mandla Langa and Zukiswa Wanner discuss movement in their novels and in their lives with Nancy Onyango.

Raising the Bar with Songezo Zibi
Venue: Fugard Studio
Price: R40
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Songezo launches Raising the Bar – Hope and Renewal in South Africa. Richard Calland poses the questions.

Shining a Light at the Shadows
Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Price: R40
Time: 2 PM to 3 PM
Carol-Ann Davids, Mandla Langa and Niq Mhlongo look at SA’s past. Chaired by Judith February.

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Patrick Bond and Matthew Parks to Discuss A Flawed Freedom at Open Book Festival 2014 (17-21 September)

A Flawed FreedomThe 2014 Open Book Festival is being held in Cape Town from Saturday 17 to Wednesday 21 September.

Matthew Parks of Cosatu and Patrick Bond will be discussing the state of the new struggle in reference to John Saul’s recently published book, A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation.

Bond will also refer to the book he collaborated on with Saul, South Africa: The Present as History.

Saul is a Canadian activist who has been supporting southern African liberation since the 1960s.

Wednesday 17 September

Venue: Fugard Annexe 1
Time: 2 to 3 PM
Price: R40
Patrick Bond and Matthew Parks discuss the state of the new struggle with reference to Saul’s Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Revolution and their collaboration on South Africa: The Present as History.

Note, John Saul is no longer able to attend this event owing to a family emergency

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Join Zakes Mda for the Launch of His New Novel, Rachel's Blue, in Cape Town

Book Launch: Rachel's Blue by Zakes Mda

Rachel’s BlueKwela Books invites you to the launch of Zakes Mda’s latest book, Rachel’s Blue, on Thursday, 18 September, at The Haas Collective in Cape Town.

Mda is based in Athens, Ohio in the United States, and will be visiting South Africa to launch his latest novel.

Mda will be in conversation with Kwela publisher James Woodhouse at 5:30 for 6 PM.

Don’t miss out!

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Gabeba Baderoon To Discuss Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Post-apartheid at Pennsylvania State University

Regarding Muslims: From slavery to post-apartheidPennsylvania State University’s Department of Women’s Studies invites you to the book launch and discussion of Gabeba Baderoon’s latest book Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Post-apartheid on Wednesday, 17 September.

Baderoon is an assistant professor of Women’s Studies and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She will speak to associate professor of Women’s Studies and African Studies, Alicia Decker, about Regarding Muslims.

The discussion will be from 3:30 to 5 PM. Don’t miss out!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 17 September 2014
  • Time: 3:30 to 5 PM
  • Venue: Pennsylvania State University,
    Women’s Studies Department,
    118 Willard Building
    University Park,
    PA | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Alicia Decker
  • RSVP: Marie Carlson, (001) 814 867 4561

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